The spell was broken when an unexpected thunderous clattering of hooves resounded on the bridge. Daisy whirled round to come face to face with Roulson Adam’s horse. The animal was biting the bit and frothing at the mouth whilst prancing about wildly. Alarmed looks on the faces of those standing close prompted the rider to rein his horse back a few paces allowing people to retreat to a safer distance.
“Hello, Roulson,” Daisy said taking hold of the horse’s bridle. “I thought it was you in the water below. Cushty gelding you’ve got; are you thinking of selling him on at the fair?”
He didn’t reply but jumped down from his horse and stood very close to her. She could feel his warm sweet breath on her face, and the familiar aroma of horses mingled with his body sweat excited her. His shirt was slung carelessly round his neck exposing his broad chest where droplets of water trickled a pathway through the dark hairs; spellbound, she followed their descent to where the dark hair tapered below his bellybutton.
“I knew it was you up on the bridge. I’d spot you a mile off, Daisy.” He spoke softly and reached out gently tucking a wisp of hair that had escaped back behind her ear. “No mistaking that beautiful hair of yours,” he murmured, stroking it with the back of his hand.
She flushed hotly and bowed her head. Her heart quickened when he placed a finger beneath her chin raising her face to look at him. She stared into the darkest eyes she’d ever seen. He was the handsomest man around.
And Roulson Adams knew it.
“I’d better be going,” Daisy said, stepping back a couple of paces to disengage from his magnetic charm. “Dad will be wondering where I’ve got to.”
“Are you walking back up the hill?”
“Er, yes, yes I am.”
“Well, come on then, I’ll give you a ride.”
He took the parcel she clasped to her chest and climbed on to his horse. He held out his arm. “Come on, grab a hold,” he said, winking mischievously at her, “You’ll be safe enough, I promise,” he added, laughing.
She looked about her where a crowd had gathered. Roulson, unable to resist an audience, burst into song.
“Daisy….Daisy….give me your answer do…
I’m half crazy…all for the love of you…I can’t afford…a”
“Roulson! Stop it! Stop it now!” She pleaded.
“Well, come with me or I promise you, it’ll get worse,” he laughed, taunting her.
A moment later a figure stepped out from amongst the crowd and a silence ensued.
“Is this man bothering you, madam?” A distinguished voice asked.
They both turned to see a smartly dressed man standing before them. It was the same man she’d met down by the river. Daisy recognised him immediately.
“And what the hell’s it to do with you?” Roulson blared, jumping down from his horse. “Bugger off and mind your own bloody business, if yer know what’s good fer yer!”
Daisy stepped between them with her back to Roulson. She looked at Tobias, perceiving his every detail in an instant while wondering what he was doing here.
“No, this man isn’t bothering me,” Daisy said coolly, dismissing him with a glance.
She turned to Roulson who was glaring challengingly at Tobias Flint. “Come on Roulson, let’s go can we, please?”
Roulson leapt on to his horse and held out a bronzed muscled arm for Daisy to grasp and climb up behind him. But first she turned to face the man who’d so readily insulted her people. “I hardly recognised you cleaned up. You’d better watch you don’t get yourself mistaken for one of us, specially dressed like that!” she added curtly.
Tobias grinned and looked on with envy as she grasped the strong arm that hoisted her up in one easy movement. They rode off but Daisy couldn’t resist a furtive glance back over her shoulder. Tobias Flint stood in the centre of the bridge, watching them. He smiled at her and waved before giving an elaborate, exaggerated bow.
She didn’t smile back.